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Chopin's 4th Ballade (Read 5078 times)

Offline etuden88

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Chopin's 4th Ballade
« on: May 22, 2004, 09:03:18 PM »
heyhey...I've been working on this ballade for almost a year now and am starting to work on the more intricate aspects of the piece (in addition to my constant efforts to perfect my performance of the coda :-/). I was wondering if anyone would like to share their own experiences in working this gorgeous piece...also, does anyone happen to know the literary inspiration Chopin had when composing this piece? Or any of the other ballades?

N.

piano sheet music of Ballade 4


Offline ayahav

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #1 on: May 22, 2004, 10:52:28 PM »
The first Ballade was inspired by Adam Mickiewicz's epic poem Pan Tadeusz. It discusses the war between the Polish Christian soldiers, and the Lithuanian idol-worshippers.

The other three Ballades are also based on patriotic poems by Mickeiwicz (who was also a friend of Chopin's), though I cannot remember the topics or names of the poems...

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #2 on: February 15, 2007, 11:13:33 PM »
How to interpret the first trills in bars 112 and 114? Since they don't have the squigglies, are they to be played like mordents?

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #3 on: February 15, 2007, 11:29:51 PM »
the second trill in measure 112 (lh) has a mordent at the end of the trill = Ab Bb Ab Gnatural Ab

this is also consistent in measure 114 in my paderewski edition. 

it says in the back of the book - in notes - that you CAN start the trill on the upper note if you want to.  usually chopin wrote in an appogiatura (small start note) when he truly wanted this done.  that appogiatura would be played 'subtracted from the duration of the principal note' (ie starting on the beat).  'in chopin's works, the signs written in his own hand in the copies of madame dubois, now preserved in the library of the paris conservatory leave no doubt, from the rhythmic point of view, as to chopin's method of executing these ornaments.  there, inter alia, we find signs indicating that the first note of the ornament in the upper staff is to be played simultaneously with the bass note corresponding to the principal note of the ornament.  (they give example of chopin nocturne op 37 #1 where the group of four sixteenths before the beat in the rh - first note of this ornament is paired with the bass note that is ON the beat).

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #4 on: February 15, 2007, 11:33:35 PM »
does it say anything about the first trill?

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #5 on: February 17, 2007, 01:20:48 AM »
The 1st 2 pages of the 4th ballade is the hardest thing I've ever had to play! It's the most impossible thing to do.  It can't be expressive, yet at the same time must have some. It has to be still, yet must have direction.  It's full of such sorrow, the whole thing is just one big question. The C F E Bb Db is the most profound musical statement ever! I mean it just sits there, never answered, it's like a question. The DbEbDbEb bit after still doesn't answer it. Its the hardest thing to play, the sound has to be perfect. It's so simple, there is only 2 parts to this section...the bass, and the soprano. The chords are there as accompnient and nothing esle, a lot of people think that it has huge melodic importance, and bring out the thumb line etc.. bit thats wrong.

The piece must be restrained all the way up to the coda. Again this is so hard to judge because it is so easy to play fff in some sections. Really learn all the voices seperatly, and know them, so that you can hear them all, and think about bringing them through all the time, yet having the melody at the same time.

The coda is so hard becasue everyone plays it fff! If you really calm it down, you'll get the ff by voicing it properly. I hate most peoples coda, it just sounds like an extra section added on to a piece. You have to make it musical, and not some double not excersise.

The 4th ballade is in my opinion the greatest piece of piano music ever composed.

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #6 on: February 17, 2007, 03:12:57 AM »
This piece has Chopin's poetic genius written all over it, but structurally rather disappointing.
The opening theme is heard in the beginning and then once more at a rather random place. The main theme gets a richly deserved treatment in the 2 subsequent variations, but that's it. The third, plainchant (?) theme receives a stunningly effective mood transformation towards the end, but again, that's it. Everything is capped off with a thematically unrelated coda.....

Contrast that with the final revelation of the main theme in the minor at the end of the second ballade, when everything goes full circle ... that's the hit-you-in-the-head, pull-the-rug-from-under kind of impact that's missing from the fourth.

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #7 on: February 17, 2007, 05:42:08 AM »
Contrast that with the final revelation of the main theme in the minor at the end of the second ballade, when everything goes full circle ... that's the hit-you-in-the-head, pull-the-rug-from-under kind of impact that's missing from the fourth.

I agree. The reason the Second Ballade is my favorite (and the one I'm learning) is because it shows Chopin's contrapuntal and formal genius as well as his melodic and harmonic innovations.

Can anyone offer some sort of explanation for the coda of the Fourth Ballade? I understand that it's part of Chopin's style to finish his large pieces with a stunning coda, but this is the only one that doesn't really make sense to me. All the others (in the other Ballades, Scherzi, Sonatas, and even the Preludes and each set of Etudes) develop some way from the piece that came before it, whether thematically, harmonically, or musically, but this one just comes out of no where. He makes such a big deal out of the cadence on the dominant that it seems like he's getting ready to end the piece out of the tonic key, which isn't all that odd for him, but then he shoots into a darn-near-chromatic virtuoso coda that has almost nothing to do with the preceding material. It's about as beautiful as passage work like that can be, but it's just one of those moments when you think "what the ****?"

Offline quantum

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #8 on: February 18, 2007, 06:40:47 AM »
Maybe the perplexity of the coda's meaning is part of it's design. 

If Chopin had a narrative in mind, surely this is plausible.  Not everything in life has perfect balance. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline dnephi

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #9 on: February 19, 2007, 03:32:15 PM »
His forms are unusual because his genius is unusual.

- John Field
For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)

Offline jericho

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #10 on: February 19, 2007, 04:16:05 PM »

The 4th ballade is in my opinion the greatest piece of piano music ever composed.


I totally agree. Most people would say Beethoven Sonata Op.111, Liszt B-minor Sonata, Prokofiev 7th Sonata, Rachmaninov 3rd Concerto. I also admire these works immensely. But when I am asked what the greatest piano piece is, I would answer with absolute certainty...The Chopin Ballade no.4 in F minor, Op.52.

Offline ahinton

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #11 on: February 19, 2007, 05:28:09 PM »
I totally agree. Most people would say Beethoven Sonata Op.111, Liszt B-minor Sonata, Prokofiev 7th Sonata, Rachmaninov 3rd Concerto. I also admire these works immensely. But when I am asked what the greatest piano piece is, I would answer with absolute certainty...The Chopin Ballade no.4 in F minor, Op.52.
There is no such thing as the "greatest piece of piano music ever composed" (and I don't say that because I'm curently working on it either); that said, the F minor Ballade is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces that Chopin ever composed and it certainly figures importantly in my own musical life, since it was the very piece that catapulted me into that life in the first place.

Besgt,

Alistair
Alistair Hinton
Curator / Director
The Sorabji Archive

Offline jericho

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #12 on: February 19, 2007, 07:26:39 PM »
Okay, objectively, there is indeed no such thing as the "greatest piece of piano music ever composed." However, subjectively, I still think that it is the "greatest piece of piano music ever composed" even when pitted against the "sublime" Beethoven Sonata Op.111 or the "mighty" Liszt B-Minor Sonata. The 4th Ballade is both.(In my opinion anyway).

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #13 on: February 19, 2007, 07:28:33 PM »
One of my favorite single piano pieces for sure.

Ballade 4
Solo Symphony Mvt 1
Goldberg Variations
Wanderer Fantasy
B minor Sonata

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #14 on: February 19, 2007, 11:05:28 PM »
Goldberg varitiations are just imesne! I fully agree with jake and his liszt (sorry..had to be done  :D)

Offline jericho

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #15 on: February 20, 2007, 02:58:33 PM »
Goldberg varitiations are just imesne! I fully agree with jake and his liszt (sorry..had to be done  :D)

Do you consider the Goldberg Variations to be superior than the Art of the Fugue or the Well-Tempered Clavier?

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #16 on: February 20, 2007, 03:47:38 PM »
Yes, I love all the Goldberg variations, I don't love all the well tempered clavier. I mean the Goldberg variations have everything in them, the p&f's are just the same form, in different keys. But don't get me wrong, I do love the well tempered clavier. and consider them masterpieces, but not above the goldberg variations in my opinion

Offline jakev2.0

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #17 on: February 25, 2007, 07:17:50 PM »
I think The Goldberg Variations is Bach's most consistent and profound work. The Art of Fugue and WTC has its masterpieces...but as a whole, the Goldbergs are the full package, baby.

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #18 on: February 25, 2007, 09:23:31 PM »
dear cygnusdei,

the first trill (both times) is without the mordent at the end according to the book that i have.  (paderewski).  but, alas - i have not played this piece.  i have, however played the second.  and, your comment 'hit you over-the-head' - and then - 'pull the rug-out-from-under'  is a very apt description.

what comes to mind, imo, for the second ballade (as it was dedicated to schumann) is the family life that schumann takes for granted.  the first part reminds me of robert schumann surrounded by his wife and children.  everything that chopin had always dreamed and wanted.  but, taken away at a very early age.  chopin loved his family so much - but it was split apart by war and tragedy.  he couldn't bear having lost some of his family and probably was wary of marrying and/or falling in love because he knew how it felt to lose loved ones.  the very fast parts make me think of the invasion of his homeland and the terror it invoked.

another interpretation would be that perhaps chopin understood robert schumanns mental problems better than anyone.  he himself was melancholy and depressed at times.  and remember, back then, they didn't have the concepts and understanding about brain chemicals and all that we do now.  he didn't judge robert schumann and probably was one of the least critical of his unstable ways.

Offline bflatminor24

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #19 on: February 26, 2007, 10:15:50 PM »
There is no such thing as the "greatest piece of piano music ever composed" (and I don't say that because I'm curently working on it either); that said, the F minor Ballade is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces that Chopin ever composed and it certainly figures importantly in my own musical life, since it was the very piece that catapulted me into that life in the first place.

Besgt,

Alistair

Oh dear - a misspelling from Mr. Alistair Hinton himself! What a debacle, indeed.

Too much great piano music to make any generalization. And the question is inherently ambiguous so let's just move on. Kay?
My favorite piano pieces - Liszt Sonata in B minor, Beethoven's Hammerklavier, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Alkan's Op. 39 Etudes, Scriabin's Sonata-Fantaisie, Godowsky's Passacaglia in B minor.

Offline prongated

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #20 on: February 27, 2007, 11:57:19 AM »
Hmmm Ayahav, I'd rather disagree with the whole notion of Adam Mickiewicz's poem influencing Chopin's Ballades, although the emotions conveyed in some of Chopin's do match M's poem.

In fact, historically, I believe there is only one 'primary' source that suggests this - an article/account where R. Schumann claimed Chopin told him that his ballade(s) is/are inspired by M's poetry. There are speculations among musicologists that the said poem is one about a lake - connected not with no. 1, but no. 3. Which makes musical sense, although not necessarily valid for historic credentials.

Any other linkings between Chopin's Ballades and M's poems are just that - speculations. Previous threads in this forum [e.g. http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,17635.0.html] seem to confirm this - look at the many different poems different people link to the Ballades!

dear cygnusdei,

what comes to mind, imo, for the second ballade (as it was dedicated to schumann) is the family life that schumann takes for granted. the first part reminds me of robert schumann surrounded by his wife and children. everything that chopin had always dreamed and wanted. but, taken away at a very early age. chopin loved his family so much - but it was split apart by war and tragedy. he couldn't bear having lost some of his family and probably was wary of marrying and/or falling in love because he knew how it felt to lose loved ones. the very fast parts make me think of the invasion of his homeland and the terror it invoked.

another interpretation would be that perhaps chopin understood robert schumanns mental problems better than anyone. he himself was melancholy and depressed at times. and remember, back then, they didn't have the concepts and understanding about brain chemicals and all that we do now. he didn't judge robert schumann and probably was one of the least critical of his unstable ways.

...very interesting narrative. The opening of 2nd is definitely warm [// family] and the fast sections quite furious. Then again, always open to interpretation - the extent of the 'rage', for instance. But yes, now that you mention it, the 2nd Ballade is very Schumann-like [Florestan and Eusebius characters are apparent here] - never really thought of this before!

Offline cygnusdei

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #21 on: February 28, 2007, 08:10:17 PM »
Do you consider the Goldberg Variations to be superior than the Art of the Fugue or the Well-Tempered Clavier?

The Goldberg variations is 1 work, but the WTC I & II are 48 works :)

Offline elevateme_returns

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #22 on: March 03, 2007, 12:05:11 AM »
One of my favorite single piano pieces for sure.

Ballade 4
Solo Symphony Mvt 1
Goldberg Variations
Wanderer Fantasy
B minor Sonata


good taste
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Offline gregh87

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #23 on: March 08, 2007, 10:48:01 PM »
The 1st 2 pages of the 4th ballade is the hardest thing I've ever had to play! It's the most impossible thing to do.  It can't be expressive, yet at the same time must have some. It has to be still, yet must have direction.  It's full of such sorrow, the whole thing is just one big question. The C F E Bb Db is the most profound musical statement ever! I mean it just sits there, never answered, it's like a question. The DbEbDbEb bit after still doesn't answer it. Its the hardest thing to play, the sound has to be perfect. It's so simple, there is only 2 parts to this section...the bass, and the soprano. The chords are there as accompnient and nothing esle, a lot of people think that it has huge melodic importance, and bring out the thumb line etc.. bit thats wrong.

The piece must be restrained all the way up to the coda. Again this is so hard to judge because it is so easy to play fff in some sections. Really learn all the voices seperatly, and know them, so that you can hear them all, and think about bringing them through all the time, yet having the melody at the same time.

The coda is so hard becasue everyone plays it fff! If you really calm it down, you'll get the ff by voicing it properly. I hate most peoples coda, it just sounds like an extra section added on to a piece. You have to make it musical, and not some double not excersise.

The 4th ballade is in my opinion the greatest piece of piano music ever composed.

I totally agree with you about the the coda.  It shouldn't be just a bombastic race; it can be very musical and fit into the rest of the piece if played at a more moderate pace with good voicing.

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #24 on: March 08, 2007, 11:13:02 PM »
I always think of the 4th ballade as a journey across a river. The ballade is like walking over a river. So dark and calm, with the odd ripple. And in the river there are a few gems, that shine though, these are special. If the whole piece is played over expessivly and "specially" these won't show. Thats how I think of the ballade, it's just hard to find out which bits should be the gems at the bottom of the river.

There is never rage in the ballade, just pity. The coda is so expressive if played properly. The texture is genius, why smash through it?

Offline cmg

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #25 on: March 09, 2007, 04:10:37 PM »
Thanks for the fine commentary on the 4th Ballade.

But, I'd argue that the Barcarolle is Chopin's most successful masterpiece.  Too bad he insisted on those obnoxious double trills, though.
Current repertoire:  "Come to Jesus" (in whole-notes)

Offline richard black

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #26 on: March 09, 2007, 08:32:47 PM »
When you've got the 4th Ballade under your skin, have a look at Ronald Stevenson's 'Fugue on a Fragment of Chopin' (no prizes for guessing where the fragment is from). Gorgeous piece.
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Offline elevateme_returns

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #27 on: March 09, 2007, 11:42:56 PM »
http://users.bigpond.net.au/nettheim/bal4/bal4.htm

thats quite interesting, for those who can be arsed to read it.
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Offline prongated

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #28 on: March 10, 2007, 03:03:13 PM »
But, I'd argue that the Barcarolle is Chopin's most successful masterpiece. Too bad he insisted on those obnoxious double trills, though.

I think I prefer the Polonaise-Fantaisie...with certain pianists playing, you will arrive in a bigger boat ^^ ;D

Offline cmg

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #29 on: March 10, 2007, 03:50:14 PM »
I think I prefer the Polonaise-Fantaisie...with certain pianists playing, you will arrive in a bigger boat ^^ ;D

 ;D well, I gotta say the Polonaise-Fantaisie ranks right up there with the Barcarolle, but sometimes you just don't want to arrive in the Queen Mary . . .
Current repertoire:  "Come to Jesus" (in whole-notes)

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #30 on: March 10, 2007, 05:58:18 PM »
http://users.bigpond.net.au/nettheim/bal4/bal4.htm

thats quite interesting, for those who can be arsed to read it.

That's got to be one of the coolest things I've ever read. Thanks for the find, elevateme!

Offline richard black

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #31 on: March 10, 2007, 10:54:42 PM »
Quote
http://users.bigpond.net.au/nettheim/bal4/bal4.htm

I find that slightly contrived. It's also possible that Chopin had the Bach and Beethoven pieces in the back of his mind and they subconsciously triggered something in the way of a slight likeness.
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.

Offline vlhorowitz

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #32 on: March 31, 2007, 03:19:42 PM »
Most people aren't crazy about Horowitz' Chopin Ballades; however, what he does with no. 4 is quite moving. So many colors, so much building...  I have never heard a more enjoyable climax of this piece.
"Sometimes my fingers work, sometimes not, - the hell with them! I want to sing anyway," WK, 1953.

Offline prongated

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #33 on: March 31, 2007, 03:53:27 PM »
Most people aren't crazy about Horowitz' Chopin Ballades; however, what he does with no. 4 is quite moving. So many colors, so much building... I have never heard a more enjoyable climax of this piece.

...Jorge Bolet is the MAN for Ballade 4!

...I actually haven't heard Horowitz's, but after hearing his Ballade 1, I am quite turned off...

Offline vlhorowitz

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #34 on: March 31, 2007, 04:10:20 PM »
I actually haven't heard Bolet's. Do you have it ? We can trade.
"Sometimes my fingers work, sometimes not, - the hell with them! I want to sing anyway," WK, 1953.

Offline prongated

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Re: Chopin's 4th Ballade
«Reply #35 on: April 01, 2007, 12:40:09 PM »
Yup. PM me about it...

...I like Bolet's interpretations on romantic works. He's an amazing musician. I have also heard his Fantaisie and Ballade no. 2...love them.